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Tips to Prevent Vehicular Heatstroke

Did you know that as neighbors, family members, strangers, and bystanders we are vitally important in saving the life of a person or pet left unattended in a “hot vehicle”? God’s word in 1 Corinthians 10:24 (ESV) reminds us  to “let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” Likewise in Galatians 6:2 (ESV),  “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” In Arizona, if you see a child or pet alone or unattended in a vehicle, call 911, get help immediately and remain at the scene until authorized rescuers arrive. 

Have you heard of the Arizona State law 12-558.02 aka as the Arizona “Hot Car” law? In summary, this law provides Good Samaritan-like protection. It says if, “a person who uses reasonable force to enter a locked and unattended motor vehicle to remove either (a) a minor child or (b) a confined domestic animal (a dog, a cat, or any other animal that is domesticated and kept as a household pet) will not be held liable for damages in a civil court case” based upon certain conditions. Some of those conditions are the intervening person believes (1) the individual or pet is in eminent danger of suffering harm or potential death, (2) the intervener determines the vehicle is locked, (3) the intervener must notify law enforcement, deputy services or emergency medical services for individuals and animal control/rescue services for pets. Additionally, the intervener uses no more force than necessary to safely remove the individual or pet from the vehicle. Most importantly, the intervener must remain on the scene until one of the above listed agents arrive to provide a higher level of care or interventions.
How does vehicular heatstroke happen? When we are hot, we’ll sweat, drink fluids, move to cooler areas, use fans, remove layers of clothing, transfer our heat to physical surfaces by sitting on cool or wet concrete or wood surfaces. If these measures are unavailable, the body cannot reduce its internal core body temperature. When individuals or pets are left unattended in locked vehicles, they’ll use sweating as the primary means to cool off to self-control their core body temperature. Once the body’s fluid levels are depleted from excessive sweating and re-hydration is not possible, we lose our ability to control our core body temperature. This results in the body experiencing an extreme rise in core body temperature causing blood pressure and heart rate changes. When our core body temperature reaches and exceeds 104 degrees Fahrenheit, we start experiencing heatstroke. If the person or pet remains untreated in a “hot” vehicle, the rising core body temperature will eventually overwhelm the normal functioning of vital organs like the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and organ failure will typically occur. If no interventions are provided, the person will experience lethal changes like seizures, coma and death.
What are the signs and symptoms of heat stroke for people left unattended or trapped in locked vehicles? In Arizona, remember, factors like air humidity and dryness level of the outside air temperature and the time in minutes a person is left untreated will impact the severity of heatstroke. Typically, the most prominent feature is high core body temperature but there are other symptoms. According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of heatstroke are flushed red skin, absence of sweating, confusion, listless, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, muscle cramps, changes in heart and breathing rates and nausea and vomiting.

As a reminder, as the intervener, you must remain on the scene until an authorized agent of the State arrives. Typical relief measures include safely remove the individual from the locked vehicle without causing additional harm or injury. Place the person in a shaded or cooler area. Remove unneeded clothing layers. Fan while misting the body with cool water. Place wet towels or draped ice packs to the individual’s head, armpits, neck and groin areas. Do not use rubbing alcohol to cool the body since it may contribute to accidental poisoning. Follow the instructions of professional rescuers such as Emergency Medical Services, Fire Service, Law Enforcement or related authorized agents. You can make an impact by knowing what you can legally do in these situations.

Prayer. Dear Abba Father, your Word reminds us to rescue the weak and needy and deliver them to safety as you have rescued and delivered those whom you have called. Thank you for your tender mercies and lovingkindness. May our lives reflect the loving grace and compassion of Jesus Christ as we witness and serve in the precious name of our Lord Christ Jesus. Amen.

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